I know of the FreeRunner, but are there any other Linux cell phones out there? Are they any good?

  • The iphone could loosely be considered a linux phone too, no? More like a unix phone, but whatever.
    – Falmarri
    Sep 19, 2010 at 10:40
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    Wake up guys, no-one else cannot analyze the question about "Are they any good?" This topic really needs some compare and contrast.
    – user2362
    Mar 23, 2011 at 23:07
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    [BOUNTY] I want to attract more serious answers that are less about euphoric products of today but concentrate to analyze the question "Are they any good?" and intrinsic factors. I will award the bounty to the person that critically analyze, compare and contrast the phones. Answers only covering explicit marketing issues and abstracted-boxed hacks is not what I am looking for. I hope clear understanding of intrinsic features (outlined in my answer). So are there any "linux" phone that address the weaknesses there? And please tell whether the product is free-as-freedom or free-as-beer
    – user2362
    Mar 23, 2011 at 23:24
  • i just bought a brand new n900 and i am not satisfied with it. TL;DR: i have a feeling that the people who designed the phone did not know linux very well. yes, it's linux, but it's very easy to brick, there are no manpages, programs you would expect to have aren't there, "optifying" means that your PATH is completely confusing, and setting up the environment to compile programs on it is so difficult due to the fact that it hasn't really been supported by nokia since 2010 or so. lots of 'official' repositories have simply been offline for a year or more... not worth it. get an android.
    – ixtmixilix
    Mar 7, 2013 at 20:40
  • @Falmarri No, that would be BSD.
    – user13757
    Jul 31, 2014 at 12:08

6 Answers 6


Nokia N900 is one of the Linux based phones I know. It even has a terminal app out of the box to access shell!

  • Anyone know when the next iteration is coming? Sep 19, 2010 at 18:06
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    the family, N8XX and N9XX, has very poor keyboard designs -- darn hard to get even tilde and programming quotes -- that kills your productivity like hXll. Android phones in conrast, such as G1, have much better keyboards but otherwise not like Nokia family. Cannot recommend any of the infant products, they are disgraceful. I got rid of my Nokias and Androids, I think not worth to waste time on them yet.
    – user2362
    Dec 18, 2010 at 21:22
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    @blntechie: will the Maemo branch get buried because Nokia is becoming Micro.*? I cannot make head-or-tail about the hypocrisy, business people really have short memories, once they were competitors and now they are almost the same thing. What is going on? I think N900 sounds too speculative and too much poor marketing. Why cannot they make better products and concentrate less on extrinsic factors? I want a better tool to my pocket. -1 because of too bombastic view, without mentioning any shortcomings.
    – user2362
    Mar 23, 2011 at 23:01
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    @Wes Hardaker: I once tried that toy and I got fed up with bad the keyboard and such things, then I bought N810 supposingly better keyboard but it was very slow to use. I wish there was a phone a bit like G1 (with good keyboard) but more engaging-deep-marketing. I want to know more about the phone, not just chrooting. I want multitasking-shells by default and such things. Any ideas why they are not there? It would be cool to have some sort of realistic power phone with many IOs like RS232 and such things so I could use it in more applications. kosh things are getting bad now with the Trojan.
    – user2362
    Mar 26, 2011 at 22:28
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    hhh: Ahh... that's not shell multitasking, that's terminal virtualization. I suspect on the N900 you could write something to switch between open xterm windows which would be similar, and then bind it to a key, but you're right that functionality isn't there now. Mar 27, 2011 at 8:44

All Android based phones are also Linux machines. Take into consideration that they run a Dalvik or Java Virtual Machine on the top.

Android relies on Linux version 2.6 for core system services such as security, memory management, process management, network stack, and driver model. The kernel also acts as an abstraction layer between the hardware and the rest of the software stack.

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    @Janusz you can install a full linux distro on android phones, i.e. talkandroid.com/android-forums/android-development/…
    – Nathan Tomkins
    Aug 9, 2010 at 5:28
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    @Nathan Tomkins: Only certain phones - the bootloader needs to be unlocked and the phone rooted. The process to get Debian on the G1 was pretty difficult initially, but it's refined.
    – Broam
    Aug 9, 2010 at 16:29
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    If you need to "root" something... it kinda defeats the purpose of "freedom". Might as well rent from Apple. Sep 19, 2010 at 18:06
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    "rent from Apple" - muahhahaa. +100 man. I just realized that iphones are exactly that - you don't own them - you rent them :)
    – Stann
    Feb 3, 2011 at 16:48
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    Android phones run a modified Linux kernel, but they are not real GNU/Linux systems. Their software is mostly buggy corporate crapware, and you have to download buggy software from dubious forums to root (and often wreck) your phone to be able to do anything interesting. It's just unethical marketing that has people talking about Android being a "linux phone". I know that Linux means the kernel, technically, but closed corporate apps are not what people are thinking of when they say "Linux"...
    – J. Taylor
    Mar 24, 2011 at 8:46

Palm's WebOS phones are Linux powered as well. They do not need to be rooted to gain access to the system. WebOS has a very active home-brew community and many standard Linux packages available via optware. I've got my Palm Pre set up as a web server, accessible via ssh, and even had samba running on it for a while. Check out WebOS Internals.

  • A bad thing about their non-freedom I have read about: those phones are apt to "forced over the air WebOS upgrades".One can't decline it, and it can kill any your custom things installed on "your" machine (it doesn't really seem to be "yours" hence). Mar 28, 2011 at 12:44

Even older than the FreeRunner was the GreenPhone. It ceased production in 2007. The software did manage to live on as QtMoko/Debian for the FreeRunner.

  • @Broam: any idea whether this phone have features like real shell (no busy-box abstraction) or other features outlined in my answer?
    – user2362
    Mar 26, 2011 at 22:16

Are they any good?

My answer is about Nokias and Androids. I recommend you to wait with them until the problems fixed below.

Poor Keyboards with Nokias but not with Androids, at least G1. Poor usability in both camps however will hinder your productivity

The family, N8XX and N9XX, has very poor keyboard designs -- darn hard to get even tilde and programming quotes -- that kills your productivity like hXll. Android phones in conrast, such as G1, have much better keyboards but otherwise not as open as Nokia family, opennes here is a very subjective term -- however hard they market their phones with "open source", they are not. Heard Nokia N900 is more open than N8XX but if I have understood right it still have some code like related to transmitter/antenna closed, check the current state from Freenode's Maemo channel, this can change like a windmill. As for Androids, I tried everything like Cyanogenmod, Dev phones but just busy-box-cli-abstraction and multi-tasking commandline not possible (not in Androids and not in Nokias) -- again a blow to productivity.

Some infant problems with current "linux" phones

  1. native multi-tasking CLI (no abstraction pling-pling like busy-box), not the same as Nokias "GUI multitasking"-marketing-pling-pling
  2. missing/implemented-poorly programs such as GNU Screen, Mutt, Vi, irssi and such basics (bad for productivity)
  3. poor QWERTY keyboard with hard-to-use programmer-keys, please, no more display clicking like with Nokias
  4. no native Debian or similar OS running, you need to box it at least with N900
  5. not open and obfuscated code, like with Cyanogenmod's Nvidia driver (not verified just rumour in Freenode's #cyanogenmod, speculation)

Cannot recommend any of the infant products, they are disgraceful in their usability and debatable openness. You may like some of their features like SSH but you will encounter productivity problems. I got rid of my Nokias, Androids, Cyanogen-mod-messes -- will go back if I can find a phone with fixed above problems.

Please, let me know if you know any phone that address the problems -- and seriously why the title is about "linux", I want BSD phone, any idea whether any OBSD phone planned or in production?

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    Sync a bluetooth keyboard to it.
    – LawrenceC
    Mar 23, 2011 at 19:11
  • @ultrasawblade: or you could just take SSH connection and use your computer to use it but it limits its usage possibilities a lot. I tried it with N810 but due to its poor design the mini-usb (or was it micro-usb actually ... dxmn non-standardized inferior products) won't charge the phone and it ran out of battery very quickly, very poor design. If I can remember right, G1 could be charged through usb and transfer data but I got fed up to it because I needed to carry a heavy battery and the reasons above, went back to nice simple 1110-Nokia/Communicator -combo while waiting better times.
    – user2362
    Mar 23, 2011 at 22:53
  1. there is a growing list here: Documenting devices with mainline Linux support - Help needed

  2. things are changing constantly, and new projects are emerging:

… and more?

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